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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bakery Gone Wild

Wild Flour’s Milwaukee success story

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Growing up as one of 14 children, Wild Flour Bakery owner Dolly Mertens gained a wealth of insight. She learned to share, to compromise and to bake delicious, handmade bread. Her mother taught her how to bake at an early age, and years later, while she was staying home with her children (while husband-partner Greg Mertens worked for the Small Business Administration), she decided that baking and selling fresh, European-style bread was an avenue to explore. But she and Greg believed in the “old, traditional way of doing things,” and wanted to sell high-quality, handmade breads free of chemicals and preservatives.

The couple opened Wild Flour Bakery with good intentions and a stack of recipes. The business’ motto, “Go Local, Go Green, Go Wild!” is a reflection of how the Mertens do business—buying local ingredients whenever possible, maintaining charitable involvement and remaining an award-winning, locally owned and operated business.  

Since opening their first location more than 13 years ago, Dolly and Greg have managed Wild Flour’s successful expansion, overseeing the development of four retail locations and supervising the bakery’s increased retail distribution. Serving Downtown, Bay View and the South Side, Milwaukee’s three Wild Flour bakeries offer an impressive selection of breads, sweets and pastries. Fresh-baked and free of dairy, sugar, eggs, oils and preservatives, Wild Flour’s assortment of breads includes both traditional and adventurous varieties, including cinnamon raisin, sourdough, whole wheat, olive rosemary bread and fresh garlic bread.

The café menu, which includes vegan and vegetarian options, is filled with soups, salads and sandwiches. Wild Flour sandwiches are served grilled or cold. Among them: “The Bari,” a delicious combination of grilled chicken, provolone, tomato, red onions, lettuce and garlic sauce on a ficelle; and “The Herbivore,” a lighter lunchtime option prepared with vegetables, hummus and cheddar cheese on Italian bread. Wild Flour Bakery’s East Troy café menu is a bit more limited than the Milwaukee menus, but still prepares fresh soups, salads and sandwiches and provides the same selection of breads and pastries.

Wild Flour products are also available from dozens of local retailers and can be purchased online. The operation’s web business is thriving, with Wild Flour regularly receiving orders from across the country and around the world. Wild Flour’s growth is somewhat astounding considering the slow economy and the infrequent success rate of small businesses. Asked for the secret of Wild Flour’s success, Dolly responded: “We keep a close eye on everything that we spend and we have very loyal employees. These are people who have worked for us for years and it is their commitment and dedication that has sustained us.”

For more information on Wild Flour Bakery or to purchase their bakery and other treats, visit wildflour.net.

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